Star Trails over Station Masters Home

I have shot night sky at Cumbres Pass a couple of times, it is the highest point on the Cumbres & Toltec RR. At the pass there is a restored RR Station, a few other stretches, and a restored Station Manager’s home. This pass year I shot the Milky Way over the station and start trails over the Station Manager’s home.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.
  • Conceptual: Feedback on the message and story conveyed by the image.
  • Emotional: Feedback on the emotional impact and artistic value of the image.
  • Technical: Feedback on the technical aspects of the image, such as exposure, color, focus and reproduction of colors and details, post-processing, and print quality.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

I have shot star trails mostly in 2’30" images, combining 10 to 15 images. They see to give thicker star trails than shorter duration images. Thinking of experimenting with shorter duration images over a longer period of time.

Technical Details

15 -2’30" images, f/2.0 ISO 6400 (correction ISO 400) stacked in StarStax . Lens 20mm f/1.8 on a full spectrum Nikon Z6 with a UV/IR Cut Hot Mirror filter. Foreground illuminated with a low power LED light on a tripod. Edited in PS, I did have to remove a number of aircraft and satellite trails in PS.

1 Like

Nice job Gary. The composition was well placed. I have done polar trails at Kitt Peak and one thing to try also is set iso as low and possible and try a 20 minute or longer depending on sky brightness. Works pretty well. The star trails in your photo image looks great. Well. Done

I was guessing on the ISO, since I only kept the final image. The ISO would have been around 400 to 800, most likely 400. ISO 4000-6400 is for Milky Way images.

The one thing about taking multiple exposures is that that some cameras need a one second delay between shots. Canon is that way so breaks can occur in the trail. The low iso, usually 100 a long 20 minute exposure can be take with the same effect as say 20 one minute exposures stacked but star trails are one line. Something to try next time. That said you did a great job with this one.

Thanks I plan to experiment more this year. It’s much easier when I camp near the shoot site, easier to roll into a nearby bed, rather than driving over an hor more home; gives me more time shooting too.

I just now saw this!! (I was super busy for a couple of months and rarely had time to check in here…) You have a wonderful composition here, and I love the FG with the light painting from off-center. Perfect that you got the center of rotation over the cabin. And you picked up some star colors, too!

I’m usually able to get good star trails at about ISO 200, and can do 8 min exposures with basically no noise. About 4 hours gives pleasingly long trails – more than that and you start to get just a bunch of concentric circles. I’ll usually stop down a little bit to try to maximize the corner quality, but that’s not a big deal for trails. I do a 2 min test shot for the ISO. A little moonlight will give some very nice blue in the sky, as you have here, and winter is best so you don’t have a smeary lighter area from the summer Milky Way.

It’s interesting that you have more noticeable gaps at the start of the trails, but they don’t show as the stars get brighter. (Or did you delete a couple of exposures there?) I try to keep the star brightness down with lower ISO (and minimize the smallest ones in processing) as I find the look more appealing without too many stars. I can shoot with 1-second gaps, with an intervalometer.

If the lens is wide enough you can center Polaris and crop later to get round trails. (It’s also possible to correct the perspective after the fact, with a lot of cropping.) Centering Polaris is quite accurate with the compass and level on my iPhone. I just need to look up the latitude and aim up by that amount.

Thank you Diane for your time and comments. I haven’t been in a position to shoot for several hours, perhaps on an upcoming trip to Cades Cove or later this summer.